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Summer league helps team prepare

New Hood River Valley boys soccer coach Doug Beveridge has caught a glimpse of the future -- and he likes what he sees.

With most of the starters returning from last season, it's easy for him to have high hopes.

His team features some of the best players in the state, including five Olympic Development players and one standout midfielder, Jordan Thompson, who recently cracked the Regional pool.

Even though they just started practicing this week, Beveridge knows what to expect -- as do the players.

That's because Beveridge has already coached them for 19 games this summer in the Liga Mexicana, guiding them to an 8-7-4 record.

"Playing in the Liga Mexicana has been great experience for the kids," Beveridge said. "Plus, it's given me a leg up on what to work on this season."

In only their first season, the Sahuayo Juniors, as they are called, finished third in their division, missing the playoffs by only two points and gradually earning the respect of the entire league.

"We play a quality brand of soccer," Beveridge said. "Many Hispanics have commented that they enjoy watching us play."

Fans may enjoy watching them, but very few teams enjoy playing them.

With a potent attack led by Joel Stenberg, Alex and Derek Ponce, Corey Vandlac, Matt Dallman, and Thompson, Sahuayo Juniors tallied 55 goals on the season.

They even caught three of the league's first-place teams by surprise, beating Colima, Mt. Adams and Abasolo -- the first, third and fifth playoff seeds, respectively.

"Some of the teams think we're going to be a pushover," said Dallman, a junior midfielder. "They show up like two minutes before the game and we just take it to 'em."

Dallman believes Sahuayo Juniors would have made the playoffs if it weren't for their inconsistent play against the lower echelon teams.

Just as they matched the high level of Abasolo, Colima and Mt. Adams, they played down to the competition against the league's bottom half, tying or losing to the league's three worst teams.

Despite a few tough defeats, including last Saturday's 2-1 loss to San Antonio, the league's seventh playoff seed, Beveridge and his players are already one step ahead of their Mt. Hood Conference rivals.

Getting the players in shape and developing continuity four months before the season should produce big dividends as the season wears on.

"We should win our conference," Dallman said. "Central Catholic will be tough, but we have very strong expectations this year. I'd say the state semifinals are realistic."

HRVHS begins the 2001 season with a home game against Aloha High School on Sept. 6.

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